BOMB THREAT CASE HINGES ON PSYCH EVAL

bofaA view west along West River Road in Rumson late Tuesday afternoon as police responded to a bomb threat at the bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The suspect in Tuesday’s alleged bomb threat at the Rumson Bank of America is undergoing an involuntary three-day psychological evaluation, the results of which will determine the next step in the legal proceedings, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday.

James Dougherty, 63, of Highlands, is charged with making terroristic threats and causing a false public alarm after threatening to blow the bank up, Administrative Assistant Prosecutor Michael Cunningham said. If convicted, Dougherty faces up to five years in state prison, Cunningham said.

Following his arrest, Dougherty was taken to the Veterans Administration Hospital in East Orange for evaluation. Authorities aren’t certain if Dougherty is a veteran, Cunningham said.

“Once complete, the results will dictate what happens next,” Cunningham said. “It’s possible he’ll be sent to MCCI (Monmouth County Correctional Institution) or somewhere else, I don’t know. I don’t know what they’re going to determine.”

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LOOK WHO’S BOOKED, ON THE GREEN

bethennyBy TOM CHESEK

To some the word “author” is a job description appended to a hyphen; a sideline to a set of  day (or night) jobs that range from acting and sax playing, to running a fabulously successful chain of tea rooms.

Look up Bethenny Frankel (right), and you’ll find the irrepressible paragon of Skinnygirl style proudly pegging herself as a “NY Times Best Seller and Celebrity Natural Food Chef.” America may have made her acquaintance as the RealiTV star of The Real Housewives of NYC and Bethenny Getting Married, but when Frankel takes the stage of the Count Basie Theatre tonight, she’ll be hosting a “Skinnygirl Night Out” as the authority on “body image, food obsession, weight and exercise” whose branded volumes on those topics (including Naturally Thin, The Skinnygirl Dish and the forthcoming A Place of Yes) have become regular fixtures on the charts and in the carts.

There’s much more in the way of reading, signing and chatting action going on locally in the days to come — and we’ve got a rundown for you, at the turn of the pixelated page.

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SUPREME COURT TRIMS RUMSON DWI PENALTY

authorities3A woman who was sentenced in Rumson municipal court to six months in prison for a DWI conviction won a curtailment of the sentence from the New Jersey Supreme Court Wednesday.

Through a  series of appeals culminating at the state’s highest court, defendant Eileen Ciancaglini argued that the municipal court judge who heard the case was wrong to consider a prior conviction for refusing to take a breathalyzer test in imposing the sentence in 2008, and the Supreme Court agreed.

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WEAVING A WEB OF FULFILLMENT, FINALLY

black-widow1Black Widow Bike Works owner Joy Luv Montefusco, left, and her right-hand man, Mike Jastrzemski, are quietly making a name for themselves in the Red Bank area. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It was June of last year, and Joy Luv Montefusco was within a week of moving to Chicago with old art school friends to pursue poetry. She’d had enough.

Montefusco said she’d faced opposition from the moment she graduated the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Arizona, where she was laughed at for applying for a job at Harley-Davidson because she was a female. But even when she landed a job the company, Montefusco said she didn’t get a workbench to use.

“I worked on the floor, on my hands and knees, for the first four months,” Montefusco, 30, said. “A lot of the guys didn’t even talk to me.” She left the company after she was told she’d never make it as a mechanic, and started her own business, Black Widow Bike Works, in Toms River.

After three years of working long days in a rickety building trying to convince people that she could do top-notch work, Montefusco decided to give up her dream and pack it north. But then her girlfriend pushed her to give it one more shot. Read More »

TRIPLE DIP FOR THE EPIPHANY

orthodox-2orthodox-3Congregants of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church held their annual celebration of the Epiphany Wednesday, when three of them jumped into the Navesink River at Oyster Point. The event was moved from its customary site at Maple Cove because of an excess of goose droppings, a church official said. (Click to enlarge)

DID THEY LEAVE ANY SPARE BATTERIES?

ballew-clock-011911The departure from Red Bank of Ballew Jewelers over the weekend also apparently meant the end of a long run of reliability for the gorgeous clock in front of the Broad Street store. This photo was taken at 11:48a. Ballew, formerly Reussille’s, traced its roots downtown to 1886. (Click to enlarge) [Update: Jenn Woods of Red Bank has launched a “Save the Reussille’s Clock” page on Facebook.]

AT 55, EVIL CLOWN ENTERS RAG TRADE

calicoCalico, the iconic “evil clown” of Middletown, celebrated its 55th birthday Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

At 22-feet tall and 10-feet wide, it has withstood the test of time, surviving fire, a potential sale of its home and a near ousting by a major development project. It’s been featured on the Tonight Show, in Weird NJ and Kevin Smith’s Clerks II, and draws fans from all over the state to gawk at its creepy grin, shoot tribute videos and set up a Facebook fan page in its honor.

Calico, the iconic “Evil Clown of Middletown,” turned 55 on Tuesday. Now it’s time to celebrate five and a half decades of making roadside history with a new venture: evil clown apparel.

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DETAILS ABOUT ROBBERY STILL UNDER WRAPS

rumson-bank1A stretch of West River Road was blocked off nearly four hours Tuesday after a bomb threat at the Bank of America. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Two suspects are in police custody after allegedly threatening to blow up the Bank of America on River Road in Rumson Tuesday afternoon, Mayor John Ekdahl said.

The unidentified men, who are from Monmouth County, are being held at Rumson police headquarters until they are charged by the Prosecutor’s Office.

After a near four-hour lockdown of part of Rumson’s busy main road, a sweep conducted by the FBI showed there was no bomb in the building, Ekdahl said.

“The building is clear,” he said. “There’s no bombs in the bank.”

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TWO HELD IN BOMB-THREAT BANK ROBBERY AFTER DRAMATIC STOP BY RUMSON COP

Video taken from Liz Kelleher’s car as a Rumson police officer stopped the two suspects.

Two suspects are said to be in custody, stopped at gunpoint by a Rumson cop as they attempted to leave a West River Road bank they’d threatened to blow up, according to an eyewitness.

Mayor John Ekdahl confirmed the two arrests, and said the suspects had attempted to rob the bank using the threat of blowing it up. It remained unclear, however, if they in fact had an explosive device or any weapons.

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‘SUBDUED SCENE’ AT RUMSON BOMB THREAT

just_in1redbankgreen‘s Dustin Racioppi describes a “surprisingly subdued scene” in Rumson as authorities respond to a purported bomb threat Tuesday evening.

As of 5:20p, West River Road remained closed from First to Third streets as police detour traffic around the Bank of America branch that a suspect, said to have been carrying a suitcase, purportedly threatened to blow up.

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GUNS REPORTED DRAWN IN RUMSON BOMB THREAT

rumson-bomb-threat-11West River Road is shut between First and Third Streets as Rumson police respond to a bomb threat at a bank.

just_in1Police have surrounded a Bank of America branch on West River Road in Rumson in response to a report of a bomb threat.

Authorities were still arriving on the scene at 4:45p, and a bomb squad truck had been called up.

A police scanner report said an individual with a brown leather suitcase was threatening to blow up the bank.

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IN STUDENT TESTS, CHARTER TOPS DISTRICT

Charter2

Reflecting a statewide pattern, Red Bank Charter School students bested their district-school counterparts in standardized math and language tests in 2010, according to a report released Tuesday by the New Jersey Department of Education.

The report, titled “Living Up to Expectations,” is a comment-free compendium of tables comparing charter school test results in math and language arts against test results of students in the host districts.

Overall results are reported for grades three through eight, and reflect the outcomes of the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge tests taken by students last year to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law.

In Red Bank, results show the charter school outperforming the district at every grade in both subject areas by wide margins.

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A ROOF LEAKS, AND BITTERNESS FLOWS

bakhet-011911Youssef Bahket with pails of water collected beneath a hole in the ceiling at Brownstone Cleaners. (Click to enlarge)

brownstone-011911

A roof leak at a Red Bank laundry shop early Tuesday ruined customer garments and may have caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment damage, the owners say.

It also unleashed a torrent of accusations between the owners and their landlord.

According to borough fire department officials who investigated the incident Tuesday morning, the leak was one of many caused by a combination of heavy rain and ice-blocked downspouts, some of which have tripped alarms.

But Youssef Bahket of Brownstone Cleaners claims that today’s leak is just the latest in a series of leaks dating back years that the building’s landlord has refused to fix. He said he went to the police station out of desperation, prompting a visit by safety inspectors and the fire department— also the latest in a series.

In reply, landlord Linda DeAngelis, who lives above the business, says Bahket is “an arrogant, conniving liar” who “lied” to officials by claiming the roof had collapsed in two places when it is merely leaking, a problem she says she’s racing to fix.

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A DIFFERENT KIND OF BEER RUN

hashers_2010_ir2

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Every Saturday, precisely at 10:17a, and in a location often not revealed until the night before, a questionable bunch assembles. They are small-business owners, retirees, cops, attorneys. Most are in running shoes, and all clutch cans of beer.

The size of the group varies from week to week, but is typically between 12 and 15 strong. They greet each other, crack a few jokes. No real names allowed — guys like Brave Dave, Dead Man Walking, G.I., Butt Naked and Nearly Dead have the only publishable monikers. Women, or ‘bimbos,’ as they’re endearingly referred to, aren’t allowed either, except on special occasions.

After a few minutes skylarking, the group sets off running on a trail that could lead anywhere, but always ends where attendance is required: a bar.

This is “a drinking club with a running problem,” the self-proclaimed “Hell’s Angels of Hashing,” but best known in esoteric circles all over the world as the Rumson Hash House Harriers.

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MAN IN GOGGLES ROBS LINCROFT STATION

just_in1By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Middletown police are looking for a man who robbed the BP gas station on Newman Springs Road in the Lincroft section of town before dawn Saturday.

The suspect, described as tall and skinny, and was wearing dark, tinted swimming goggles, displayed a silver-and-black handgun to the station attendant and demanded money, Detective Lieutenant Steve Dollinger said.

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BALLEW BIDS ADIEU TO RED BANK

ballew1Ballew Jewelers closed its doors Saturday, 124 years after opening in Red Bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Ballew Jewelers is now a Red Bank memory.

After 124 years, the downtown landmark, known as much for its ‘lollipop’ clock on the sidewalk as its cases of diamonds and Rolex watches, closed its doors Saturday, leaving a hard-to-believe void.

“It’s sad,” Kate Ballew said. “You can’t picture anything else in here.”

But something else will be, eventually, she said.

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REPORT: BECK TO WED RESTAURATEUR

beck1Twelfth-district state Senator Jen Beck is getting remarried, according to a report by the Auditor in Sunday’s Star-Ledger.

The anonymous columnist reports that he or she “noticed colleagues admiring the diamond sparkler on [Beck’s] left hand after the State of the State address Tuesday.”

Beck told the Sledger that her fiancé, restaurateur Dan Shields, proposed in October, and that the couple have kept their engagement “low-key.”

A 44-year-old Republican, Beck lives in Red Bank with her dog, Scout, according to her online bio. She served two terms on the borough council before winning a seat in the state Assembly in 2005. Two years later, she won the 12th-district spot in the state Senate.

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TWO CARS REPORTED STOLEN

call-in-the-authoritiesThe crime reports below were provided by the Red Bank Police Department for the period of January 7 to January 14, 2011. The information appears here unedited.

Criminal Mischief occurring Monmouth Street business between 12-25-10 and 1-6-11. Owner reported that unknown person(s) cracked two windowpanes on front of business. Ptl. David Hicks

Burglary occurring at Shrewsbury Ave. business on 1-8-11. Police responded to burglary alarm. Once at the scene it was discovered that a pry bar was stuck in the top section of the rear door. Entry was not gained. Ptl. James DePonte.

Auto Theft occurring on 1-10-11 at Leighton Ave. Victim reported that unknown subject(s) stole vehicle with keys in the ignition and engine running. Ptl. Michael Zadlock.

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A GOLD-MEDAL VIEW FROM THE COXSWAIN

mary-whippleOlympic gold medalist Mary Whipple gave some coxing tips to locals Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Mary Whipple has an important piece of advice for high school students when they get into college.

“Plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize,” she said.

Not in the classroom, that is, but on the water. Whipple, a gold medal Olympian in rowing, was talking about the keys to becoming a top-notch coxswain to about 20 local high school rowers.

One way to do so, she said, is listen to the coach.

“Start to learn what your coach is saying, then use their words,” she said.

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A DAY OF WISDOM FOR WOMEN

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

oyster-pointListen up, young ladies. It’s time to start thinking about the future, and the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore and a slew of volunteer organizations are here to help.

On February 5, they’ll host “Career Wise In A Day,” a medley of seminars geared towards high school women to give them a comprehensive rundown of the possibilities ahead of them post-graduation.

There are plenty of options to choose from. Seminars, to be held at Red Bank’s Oyster Point Hotel (above), include speakers on the ins and outs of being an artist, politician, doctor and, — gulp — journalist, among others.

And if you sign up by the end of the day, there’s a discount.

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PRE-K AT THE LIMIT, AND LIKELY TO STAY

pre-k2Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, John Bombardier, with a pre-k student. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After two years of growth, the number of children in Red Bank’s lauded pre-kindergarten program is likely to stay static next school year, a direct result of the state’s dire budget situation.

“I don’t know that we’ll be able to expand, but we expect we’ll have the same number of children for next year,” Superintendent Laura Morana said.

Now taking up residence at various locations throughout the borough, the early education program tailored to three- and four-year-olds is at capacity, with 238 students, plus a waiting list.

And Morana can’t stop singing the praises of the state-funded initiative, in which only five school districts in the state were selected to participate.

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RUMSON’S PABST BLUE POET

britt2Rumson native Britt Melewski will be published in Liebamour magazine’s spring edition. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A few days before Thanksgiving, Britt Melewski walked down to his favorite bar, Murphy’s Tavern in Rumson, and ordered his drink of choice, a Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can. It was a celebratory libation, he said, for writing his best work to date.

The thickest part of March

Will be a Monday drawn in snow

The simplicity of the poem, and its possibilities, is exactly what Melewski has learned in his years developing as a poet.

“There’s a lot more to poetry than getting drunk and writing something down,” Melewski said.

Those words, sneering and satirical, have something of a Dylan Thomas quality to them, and Melewski, after a retreat to the West Coast to study the art of verse, is back in Rumson and working his way toward what he hopes will be a career as a published poet.

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